Neighborhood Spotlight: Old Palo Alto

Locally regarded among the Bay Area’s most prestigious and esteemed areas, Old Palo Alto sits at the center of this famous and affluent city. Whether you’re out for a morning walk or hovering along on the latest piece of cutting-edge personal transportation, residents of this historic and coveted neighborhood can find any location in the city within only a few miles of their front door. From Stanford’s campus, prominent California Avenue, vibrant downtown University Avenue, and renowned Town & Country Village, destinations await residents in every direction with unbeatable walkability.

Moving along any of Old Palo Alto’s arboreal streets, an observant homebuyer will likely notice exceptional variation when comparing lot sizes and living spaces of adjoining houses. The typical lot size here is spacious (averaging over 10,000 square feet), but many homes boast lots that measure closer to half an acre. The residences themselves are equally diverse. Old Palo Alto features an encyclopedic showcase of architectural styles and draws together styles from across the 20th century into a cohesive and friendly community—several designed by renowned architect Birge Clark.

After designing the Hoover House in Stanford University, Clark lent his style and technique to many of the city’s centers for public service: the police station, fire house, community center, and post office, to name a few. But Palo Alto’s best-loved architect is hardly this neighborhood’s only historic figure, given this area’s profound beauty and history. Inspirational Apple CEO Steve Jobs chose Old Palo Alto for his family home during his life, and Google’s CEO Larry Page still lives in this great area. The grand-daughter of the co-founder of Procter & Gamble, Elizabeth F. Gamble, also called this area home for most of her life and donated her estate to the city in 1941. The 2.5-acre Gamble Garden is now a treasured community haven for education, inspiration, and enjoyment, and is open to residents every day during daylight hours. This lovely space is home to rose and wisteria gardens, botanical classes, flower workshops, seasonal tours, and much more.

Old Palo Alto’s historical significance presents a spectrum of implications for homeowners and hopeful homebuyers. Several city ordinances protect the integrity of certain blocks, streets, and individual homes with the goal to preserve the beauty of Palo Alto’s early appearance. These codes offer comfort to residents who value the feeling of quiet spaciousness under the neighborhood’s tall and impressive tree canopy, but buyers seeking an investment property or those looking to remodel would do well to inquire which codes affect various lanes.

The bright side of the city building codes is that observant residents find themselves surrounded by some of the peninsula’s most creative remodel designs and innovative solutions to building restrictions. Many homes in Old Palo Alto feature fully furnished and expansive basements—an elegant increase to practical living area without raising or widening a home’s dimensions. This area’s proximity away from the flood zone has encouraged the prevalence of sunken game rooms, guest suites, and home theaters. Many of Old Palo Alto’s most impressive houses from decades past have been renovated cleverly, maximizing floor space or closet access, preserving the building’s unique features, and emphasizing antique finish or trim. Mixed in are new developments that add to the area’s architectural diversity, boasting their own new, refreshing, and modern styles.

Despite all of this, home values and public data for home sales have demonstrated that Old Palo Alto consistently increases in value. The relatively high price per square foot for land in Old Palo Alto has led to beautiful streets lined with homes, but with slightly fewer parks or shopping centers within the neighborhood’s boundaries. But part of the area’s embrace for innovative and elegant design can be seen through its unique features. Most weekday afternoons, students from Paly High cross Embarcadero Road for food and leisure in Town & Country Village. At the area’s southern end, a tunnel rewards residents who learn the intricacies of their city by ferrying them under Alma Street and the Caltrain tracks into the beautiful and memorable shops and restaurants of California Avenue.

  Number of Homes Sold Average Sales Price Average Price per Sq Ft
Old Palo Alto 34 $5,126,786 $2,156

Information gathered from the MLS from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018

California Avenue is locally lauded as Palo Alto’s second downtown with wonderful amenities and award-winning eateries. Home to Baumé with two Michelin stars and Protégé with one Michelin star, as well as internationally-acclaimed Jin Sho and Terún, this half-mile span offers world-class dining options. Antonio’s Nut House, Calave, Moods Wine Bar, and more also contribute to the charming nightlife scene here. On every Sunday year-round, this avenue closes off to vehicular traffic and transforms into a bustling farmers’ market for everyone to enjoy.

Also nestled within this area’s boundary is Bryant Street’s transformation to Ellen Fletcher Bike Boulevard. The street has been modified at certain points to reduce vehicular traffic, which encourages and fills the streets with local cyclists and children commuting to school. Although this area is a natural choice for all demographics, it is especially great for families with young kids due to proximity to world-class schools. Children can attend Walter Hays Elementary, Greene Middle, and Palo Alto High – with the first two ranked #3 in the state and Paly ranked #4 state-wide, and all located immediately off the neighborhood’s boundaries. Parents can also choose prestigious Castilleja School for a private, all-girls education.

Old Palo Alto is a local treasure with many coveted homes and numerous valuable gems. To learn more or inquire about our current Old Palo Alto listings, please contact us.